The Edinburgh International Book Festival is billed as the “largest and best-respected literary festival in the world”, and sees over 800 authors taking part in more than 700 events.
Having celebrated its 30th birthday in 2013, the Edinburgh International Book Festival began life as a one-off event in a packed festival scene that featured every art form—apart from literature. At that time, there was no literature festival in Scotland and only two in Britain. Since that first event in 1983, the festival has grown in stature and reputation, and has seen hundreds of other literature festivals open across the UK.
The festival is housed in the beautiful Charlotte Square Gardens, providing an historic backdrop to the festival’s hundreds of events, which include a Children Programme and an independent bookselling operation.
We headed to the Book Festival to interview its director Nick Barley to find out more about the festival’s ethos and approach to creative public engagement. You can listen to the podcast below.
Central to the Book Festival’s ethos is its commitment to discovering and championing new talent. This year, Raja Alem from South Arabia has been nominated for the Festival’s First Book Award, after winning the 2011 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Alem writes about Mecca, and touches on the way the city is entering a new era; one of her characters, visiting Mecca, finds their solace in literature. In our exclusive podcast, Alem explains the way her books explore this “slipping” between modern and traditional Islamic society.
Alexander McCall Smith, who went to university in Edinburgh, is one of the world’s most prolific and widely acclaimed writer. His fiction has sold over 40 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 46 languages. At this year’s International Book Festival, he talks about some of his wildly successful series, including 44 Scotland Street. We caught up with McCall Smith to hear his take on why Edinburgh has such an enduring allure for writers, which you can hear in the podcast below.